Ghosts walk the Earth, that rise not from the grave.
The Dead Past hath its living dead. We see
All suddenly, at times, and shudder then,
Their faces pale, and sad accusing eyes.
Last night, within the crowded street, I saw
A Phantom from the Past, with pallid face
And hollow eyes, and pale, cold lips, and hair
Faded from that imperial hue of gold
Which was my pride in days that are no more.
That pallid face I knew in its young bloom,
A radiant lily with a rose-flushed heart,
Most beautiful, a vision of delight;
And seeing it again, so changed, so changed,
I felt as if the icy hand of Death
Had touched my forehead and his voice said “Come!”
Ah, pale, cold lips that once were rosy-red!
Lips I have kissed on golden afternoons,
Past, past, and gone, and gone beyond recall,
Breathing low vows beside the summer sea
(Vows broken like the breaking of a wave):
Ah, faded hair, whose curls I have caressed,
And sworn the least of them was dearer far
Than all the wealth of all the world to me!
Ah, hollow, haunting eyes, within whose depths,
Flower-like, and star-like, once my Fate I saw,
Or thought I saw! is there not any way
To call back from its grave the Buried Past?
Dear! Though my vows to thee were all for-sworn,
Too well, too late, I know I loved thee more
Than mine own life, a life-in-death since then.
Yet shall I nevermore in all the days
And all the lives to come, if lives there be
Beyond this life, beyond the weary earth,
Kiss thee again upon the lips and hair,
And call thee by the old caressing names,
And feel thy true heart beating against mine,
That was so false and would, too late, be true;
For neither passionate prayer, nor burning tears,
Nor incantations that might rend the rocks,
Nor all the powers of hell, nor God Himself,
May raise the Buried Past to life again.
For thou that wert art not; dead evermore,
Dead evermore, too, that which once was I.
What exorcism will lay these haunting ghosts?
None but a draught of the Lethean stream.
Who drinks therefrom shall all things soon forget,
Himself forgetting, too, the greatest good.
© Victor Daley